The imposing steel piles driven into the ocean floor of Walu Bay at the Stanley Brown Naval Base in Suva, Fiji, stretch out into the water hinting at where the final jetty will sit and mark the completion of a critical phase of the joint Australian-Fiji wharf redevelopment project.

The new wharf will provide berthing for two new Australian-gifted Guardian-class patrol boats, one of which has already been delivered and is in service with the Fijian Navy, with the other due in 2023.

The piling crew, managed by Australian Army engineers and ADF Contractors McConnell Dowell and GHD with the help of a specialised crane barge, recently completed driving the steel piles into the seabed, allowing Fiji local industry to move forward with the project.

Republic of Fiji Navy (RFN) Lieutenant Osea Natuva, staff officer for international engagement, described how the new jetty and patrol boats would be used in future RFN operations.

“The pier will provide accessibility and provide water and electricity to the boats, and also help safeguard the boats while tied up alongside,” Lieutenant Natuva said.

“The Guardian-class patrol boats help us to patrol the 1.6 million miles of our areas of responsibilities in the oceans and help us meet our goals set by the government - maritime border protection, maritime resource protection, search and rescue operations, humanitarian need, disaster relief and maintenance of the maritime domain in Fiji.”

The Stanley Brown Wharf redevelopment is one element of the Pacific Maritime Security Program, which Australia’s Defence Adviser to Fiji, Colonel Rob Haertsch, said was Australia’s 30-year commitment to increase maritime security in the Pacific and region. 

“The program includes a number of mechanisms, enhancing Pacific Island nations’ abilities to respond on the water as well as aerial surveillance and other coordination mechanisms with regional partners,” Colonel Haertsch said.

“From a defence perspective, this is only one small part of the whole-of-government relationship between our two nations. We're really fortunate to have a strong defence relationship with the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.” 

Mark Lees, a project engineer with McConnell Dowell, described the next steps in the construction of the wharf.

“The next two major activities are the capping beam that goes on the top of the key wall, and piling along the front face of the wharf and the jetty where the two new patrol boats will berth,” Mr Lees said.

The project, which is injecting about FJD$7 million into the COVID-stricken Suva economy and employs about 70 local Fijian workers, is slated to be completed in early 2023.